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Dec 8, 2020

Tesla raising up to US$5B in third capital raise this year

Bruce Murray discusses Tesla

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Tesla Inc. is taking advantage of its surging shares by going back to the capital markets for the third time in 10 months and raising as much as US$5 billion of common stock.

The sale is through an “at-the-market” offering program, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday, meaning the stock will be sold over time at prevailing market prices. Tesla has soared about 650 per cent this year, a sign investors’ appetite for shares remains strong.

The stock pared a dip of as much as 3.6 per cent, trading down 1.5 per cent to US$632 as of 9:40 a.m. in New York.

The raise could lead Tesla’s cash balance to approach US$20 billion, Joel Levington, a Bloomberg Intelligence credit analyst, said in a report. The company’s credit quality is now “well in excess” of its ratings even after three upgrades during the global pandemic, he wrote.

Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk is again seizing on a rally that started as the maker of the Model 3 began to post quarterly profits in the second half of last year. The opening of a plant near Shanghai, addition of the Model Y crossover to the lineup, advances in battery technology and anticipation of inclusion into the S&P 500 Index has led investors to assign Tesla a much richer valuation than any other auto manufacturer in the world.

Capex Boost

It’s apparently led Musk, 49, to worry about employees taking their eye off the ball. He urged staff on Dec. 1 to be mindful about spending and play a “Game of Pennies” even after Tesla reported its fifth consecutive quarter of profit in October. The automaker had US$14.5 billion in cash and cash equivalents at the end of September.

The latest capital raise follows an issue of US$5 billion shares in September and a US$2 billion offering in February. That has helped Tesla more than double planned spending on plants and equipment this year. The new money will support plans announced in October to double the carmaker’s capital-expenditures budget during the next two years to a range of US$4.5 billion to US$6 billion.

Tesla is currently building two new factories -- one in Austin, Texas, and its first European plant, near Berlin -- and expanding output at its existing vehicle-assembly facilities in Fremont, California, and Shanghai.